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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
Pam Grier the role model
Pam Grier
Grier's big comeback was in Jackie Brown

Actress Pam Grier is being honoured at the London Black Film-makers Film Festival on Monday for lifetime achievement.

Her career is littered with highs and lows but because of her staying power she has become one of a handful of role models for black actors.

Pam Grier is not one to shy away from the racier side of the film world and her first film role in cult porn director Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls pays testament to this.

The 53-year-old was considered an icon of the blaxploitation films of the 1970s with cult hits such Black Mama, White Mama, Coffy and Scream, Blacula, Scream.

One of her most famous roles as Foxy Brown featured plenty of sex and violence, a theme which dominates many of the films she starred in.

Bones
Grier's can next be seen in Bones alongside Snoop Doggy Dogg
But as political correctness took hold the staple movie for Grier became less popular and she slipped out of the public and cinematic eye.

Although she was consistently working through the 80s there was little that caught the attention of major film-makers or audiences.

But that was to change when she auditioned for a part in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.

Although the part went to Rosanna Arquette, Tarantino told Grier he would keep her in mind for another role.

And true to his word he cast her in the lead role of his movie Jackie Brown in 1997.

Award nomination

He even changed the title from Jackie Burke as a nod to her most famous film, Foxy Brown.


Writers believe they have to be the voice of the black or Asian community to get their voices heard but it is not the case

Himesh Kar, British Film Council
The attention the movie received, thanks to Tarantino's then reputation as a breaking-the-boundaries director, ensured Grier was back in favour.

Her performance as an air hostess saw her nominated for a best comedy actress Golden Globe, eventually losing out to Helen Hunt for As Good as it Gets.

But Grier's most recent film, Pluto Nash with Eddie Murphy, has bombed in the US.

None of her films since have yet to match the success of Jackie Brown but she has become a role model for black actresses.

Her next role in Bones, alongside rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg, could achieve better success.

With few black actresses making it into the big leagues, populated by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Roberts, Grier is seen as someone to aspire to.

One of the biggest sea changes in the history of black actors was the double Oscar win of Denzel Washington and Halle Berry in 2002.

But far from letting the situation go to the heads of those involved in promoting ethnic minority actors and film-makers it is just seen as a platform from which to work from.

Respect

Himesh Kar, who chairs a committee on diversity at the British Film Council, said that the future is bright for ethnic minorities in all parts of the film industry.

Halle Berry
Halle Berry won her Oscar for Monster's Ball
But he is worried that many are pigeon holing themselves as "black film-makers" or "black actors".

He said: "There is more of an effort to get ethnic minorities into the industry and barriers are coming down, slowly.

"It is about respecting the talent. Writers believe they have to be the voice of the black or Asian community to get their voices heard but it is not the case.

"What we want are original and interesting stories and good scripts, which do not have to be about their ethnic backgrounds."

Mr Kar also said that many from ethnic minorities are put off going into the film business because they do not expect to succeed because there are so few role models for them.

"There is a need to educate at all levels from casting directors to drama schools, because that is where many of the problems begin," he added.


Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

25 Mar 02 | Oscars 2002
25 Mar 02 | Oscars 2002
07 Sep 01 | Entertainment
31 Aug 99 | Tom Brook
05 Apr 99 | Entertainment
15 Jan 00 | Tom Brook
13 Oct 00 | Entertainment
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